South Australian businessman Shane Yeend will spend $1 million ‘just to make sure Jay goes’. Picture: Kelly Barnes
Outspoken South Australian entrepreneur Shane Yeend says he will spend $1 million to campaign against the Weatherill government in the lead-up to next year’s state election because it did not support business in the state.
The Australian Cannabis Corporation shareholder backed up a Facebook declaration yesterday to “put away $1m just to make sure Jay goes”, out of frustration with the Labor government and its inaction to help entrepreneurial activity.
The co-founder of interactive games company Imagination Entertainment said he was not a member of a political party but would take the government on because “there’s hardly anyone in this town that can tell them the truth”.
“We’ve had the same government for 15 years; it won’t matter who’s in next, there just needs to be change,’’ Mr Yeend said.
“I’m not afraid of those guys ... they’re just arrogant. Fifteen years’ arrogant. They don’t like people standing up to them.”
The cannabis corporation approached the Weatherill government 18 months ago seeking help in its bid for a federal medical cannabis cultivation licence to make medicinal marijuana on a commercial scale at the Holden car factory site, north of Adelaide, once the company shuts its doors later this year, he said.
The proposal estimated it would generate 2500 new jobs and $800m annually.
Frustrated with progress, Mr Yeend paid for a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Mail in December, criticising the government in an open letter saying the company wanted to employ South Australians but “after a year, we have managed two meetings and a fluffy generic letter from our Innovation Minster (Kyam Maher).”
Mr Yeend, who heckled the Premier during his debate with Liberal Opposition Leader Steven Marshall on Friday, said he was angry at the government’s arrogance in dismissing an offer by Alinta Energy to keep the coal-fired power station open at Port Augusta last year to ensure grid stability.
An Advertiser-Galaxy poll last week showed 39 per cent of voters in key marginal seats believe Mr Weatherill is “mostly to blame” for the state’s power crisis.
A spokesman for the Premier said the government had been “engaging constructively with multiple parties” to establish a medicinal cannabis industry.
“While we’ve had constructive dealings with representatives from the Australian Cannabis Corporation, Mr Yeend’s behaviour has made it difficult to work with him,” he said.
Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride, who was at the leaders debate on Friday, said Mr Yeend’s heckling and language at the event was not appropriate.
He was unaware of the details of Mr Yeend’s proposal with government but said his sentiment was on track with other business leaders’ concerns about a public sector culture of “delay until it goes away” and fear of retribution “if you stand up and complain”. “The truth is if BHP spent $8 billion on salaries and $4bn on goods and services you’d call it a company town, and that’s what this government spends,’’ Mr McBride said.